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Don Panos' pestice contamination, Presidencia Roca, Argentina


Between the 20th and the 24th of October 2021 the city of Presidencia Roca, in the Argentinean Chaco, was hit by the aerial drift of pesticides used by the “Don Panos” plant, a cotton establishment which is located about sixteen kilometres from the city. The company that manages the plant, "Marfra SA" is owned by "Unitec Agro", the large holding company owned by Eduardo Eurnekián, a billionaire entrepreneur as well as the fifth richest person in Argentina [1]. Don Panos' property extends for about 50000 hectares between the provinces of Chaco and Formosa,  within which there are still wooded areas. The company has, over the last year, begun to initiate a process of expansion and intensification of cotton production, resulting in a massive use of pesticides and illegal deforestation [2]. Nevertheless, Don Panos is a hegemonic presence on the territory since 1995, when the plant was established. 

The fields of millionaire Eduardo Eurnekián have been a constant element of confrontation for more than twenty years now for the communities of neighbouring cities, especially for the urban and non-urban communities located between Presidencia Roca and Pampa del Indio, Campo Nuevo and Campo Medina, for example, which have long since begun to collect complaints in collaboration with the "Red de Salud Popular Ramón Carrillo". Alejandra Gomez, the lawyer of the association who has taken charge of pursuing the legal path since mid-November, updating and collecting citizens' complaints, stated that since the establishment has existed, or since 1995, the presence of environmental conflict has been continuous [3]. The recriminations concern the consequences of intensive farming on the whole ecosystem: the soil becomes arid, the water becomes contaminated, the crops are often lost in conjunction with the aerial fumigations, the animals left to graze in the mountain get stuck in the fences, and it is witnessed at least one case of an indigenous man injured because, having gone hunting in the mountain, he entered the factory fields by mistake [4]. In the places of the green desert biocide, many people, in most cases small farmers, have been forced to abandon the places they used to call home. Besides, if initially the problems created by the cotton field were mainly related to the impact on the non-human elements of the territory, the first effects on human health soon appeared. Especially the campesinos and the few qom families (indigenous communities) who live immediately near the cotton fields are used to smelling the pesticides, as well as to the presence of the aeroplanes that deal with the fumigations (that between other chemicals also feature glyphosate), and to experience their effects. The spills of October 2021, however, marked a profound watershed in the unfolding of the conflict, for the heavy impact they had on the city's health as well as for the profound effects they generated on the social fabric. Carried out for a long time and on days of strong wind, the fumigations have led the drifts to fully invest in the city centre, as well as the neighbouring fields of small farmers, schools and community gardens. The use of pesticides also occurred illegally. The methods and timing within which it is possible to implement its use are indeed now governed by the provincial law "Ley de Biocidas 2026-R", obtained in 2012 thanks to the activity of the Red de Salud Popular. About 700 people (rural and urban communities) suffered the effects of pesticide exposure [5], which especially affected children. Some of them spent days in the hospital, and almost all saw their vegetable gardens destroyed. The population has since started to mobilize. Especially women, qom and not, have been among the first ones to reunite and mobilize, supported by the "Fundación Gran Chaco", that in Presidencia Roca collaborates with the association of qom craftswomen "Alpi la añaxac".


Basic Data

Name of conflict:Don Panos' pestice contamination, Presidencia Roca, Argentina
State or province:Chaco
Location of conflict:Presidencia Roca
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Specific commodities:Cotton

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Don Panos has a production level of 2,600 hectares of cotton, and seeks to reach 8,000 hectares between cotton and soy [6].

Project area:55000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project40,000,000 [7]
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:700-1000
Start of the conflict:2021
Company names or state enterprises:Marfra SA from Argentina
Unitec Agro SA from Argentina
Relevant government actors:Secretaría de Desarollo Territorial y Ambiental
Brigada Operativa Ambiental (BOA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Red de Salud Popular Ramón Carrillo
Fundación Gran Chaco

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
qom communities
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Air pollution, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsThe contamination of the plants prevents the local qom people from using them in tradicional botanical medicine, thus aggravating the health conditions.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:The mobilization mainly implements judicial strategies, but the citizens are starting to organize a resistance trough assemblies.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The plant continues to operate without respecting the limits imposed by law in 2012, even with precautionary measures in place. An expansion of the same is also foreseen [6].

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ley 6409 – Ordenamiento Territorial de los Bosques Nativos

Ley de Biocidas - 2026-R

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Forbes - Eduardo Eurnekian

[2] Fumigaciones ilegales en Chaco: “Si este conflicto hubiese ocurrido en CABA la respuesta hubiera sido otra”, Camilla Parodi, 2021

[3] La poderosa empresa detrás de la lluvia de agrotóxicos en Chaco, Julián Pilatti, 2021

[4] Observatorio de conflictos sociales NEA

[5] Red de Salud Popular Ramón Carrillo

[6] Gobierno del Chaco

[7] Gaceta Mercantil, 2012

[8] Viaje a los pueblos fumigados, Pino Solanas, 2018

[9] En Chaco apuntan a un establecimiento agrícola de envenenar a un pueblo con agrotóxicos

Meta information

Contributor:Chiara Solinas, [email protected]
Last update30/06/2022
Conflict ID:5886